The Minnesota Vikings’ search for a head coach is in full swing. They finished interviewing the eight names on their docket today. One of the candidates who has faced a lot of scrutiny in light of recent events is Kellen Moore, the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. Opinions on Moore have drastically changed after he called a quarterback draw on the final play from scrimmage in a gut-wrenching loss to the San Francisco 49ers. And that play isn’t the only reason Moore is not the right choice for the Vikings.
One of the biggest criticisms of Moore is that he continuously struggles to get his best playmakers the ball. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb should be one of the premier receiving duos in the NFL. However, Cooper didn’t surpass 1,000 receiving yards this year, making it one of the statistically worst seasons of his career. Lamb was frequently used in the quick game and screens, ignoring his talent as a vertical threat.
Troy Aikman commented on this matter after the loss, saying, “They mixed in some coverage, but there was a lot of single coverage on CeeDee Lamb. … I hate going back to (when I was playing) because nobody cares, but what I see around the league, it’s not just Dallas, I’ve seen it with a lot of teams, a lot of these offenses want to scheme things. … The coordinators, it’s all about scheme, rather than, ‘This corner is playing soft. He’s scared to death. Just run the route tree. Run a comeback. Run a dig route. Run a curl. Run anything.’”
That is a pretty telling indictment from a Hall of Fame quarterback. The Cowboys’ offense has put up the most points in the league, so you might be asking yourself: Why does the production of two wide receivers matter when the unit itself is successful?
Don’t let the numbers fool you. The Cowboys led the league in turnovers and defensive touchdowns, which gives them better field position, making things a bit easier for the offense. Another concern about the Dallas offense is they have firepower everywhere. That includes:
- A borderline-elite quarterback in Dak Prescott
- Two solid running backs in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard
- Four reliable wide receivers, including two elite ones, and two solid tight ends
- Two All-Pros on their offensive line, which ranked in the top-two in both run blocking and pass blocking
Simply put, how would an offensive coordinator not produce with what might be the most complete offense in the NFL? Moore arguably did not get as much out of them as possible. Consider the abysmal 17-point season-ending performance and other losses earlier in the year against the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, who have good defenses.
This isn’t to ignore the solid play that Moore got from Cooper Rush, the backup quarterback who beat the Vikings on Sunday Night Football. I’m not suggesting that Moore isn’t a capable offensive mind. He is. But there are concerns, one of which is that we don’t know how good he would be if he didn’t have that kind of firepower at his disposal.
But the biggest concern still has to do with his inability to get his best playmakers the ball. It’s an issue that Vikings fans are familiar with, watching their quarterback throw to C.J. Ham and Tyler Conklin instead of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Additionally, Galina notes, “The Cowboys could not create down the field in their play-action game. They ranked 26th in rate of explosive pass plays off play-action. Prescott ranked 23rd in volume of plays where at least three receivers were charted as ‘open’ off play action this season.”
The Cowboys’ passing game seemed to lack identity. They ignored their best weapons and switched personnel groupings often, even when things are working. Moore’s adaptability seems to be a good thing in general, but he might be over-adapting.
Since the infamous Stefon Diggs trade, one of the biggest concerns among Vikings fans is the usage of wide receivers, specifically Justin Jefferson. If the Vikings end up hiring Moore, there is plenty to be excited about. But there might be more to be concerned about.